AFRICA/LIBERIA - SOME OF THE 750,000 REFUGEES IN MONROVIA ARE RETURNING TO THEIR VILLAGES
Monrovia (Fides Service) – “The situation in Monrovia is gradually returning to normal” Father Mauro Armanini, of the Society for African Missions, tells Fides Service. The Italian missionary has worked in Monrovia capital of Liberia for some years. “A minimum of security has been restored thanks to the presence of ECOMIL African troops and this improved situation has allowed international humanitarian organisations to resume distribution of food and medicine to the local people” the missionary says.
“The end of the fighting in the capital and surrounding areas has convinced many of the homeless in camps in various parts of the capital to return to their villages which war forced them to abandon a year ago. However, unfortunately, this is only affecting displace persons in Monrovia not in the rest of the country” says Father Mauro. “The return home of these people is a positive development, because Monrovia had reached the limit of physical survival. In a year the population had grown from 350,00 to 1.5 million”.
It is reported that in various parts of Liberia fighting between army and rebels continues. The peace keeping force has begun to deploy in the capital. An ECOMIL contingent went to Kakata, 50 km north east of Monrovia, the scene of recent fierce fighting between government troops and LURD rebels (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy), the main guerrilla group in Liberia. The fighting was a threat to the safety of some 80,000 displaced persons in 4 refugee camps in the area.
“The deployment of peace keepers in Monrovia is an important step” Father Mauro says. “In the rest of Liberian the humanitarian emergency is much worse, because NGOs have great difficulty in distributing aid in insecure areas. Let’s hope the peace keeping force succeeds in stopping the fighting and allowing proper assistance to the population exhausted by years of war.” The civil war between rebels and President Charles Taylor (now in exile in Nigeria) began in 1999. Thanks to international mediation in August Taylor agreed to leave the country to allow the deployment of a peace keeping force and the setting up of a national unity government.
During these years of war the local Catholic Church was forced to reduce its present, but things are changing, says Father Mauro: “In Monrovia parish activity is resuming. Many of the city’s church structures were sacked but not destroyed, unlike parishes in other parts of Liberia where parishes and missions were burned to the ground”. LM (Fides Service 10/9/2003 lines 37 Words: 464)
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